It’s such a lovely image: one or both parents cuddled up on a couch, reading books with their child while the child excitedly points out pictures and asks questions. It seems like that is how reading should be, right? No wonder it is so frustrating then when reading together isn’t so easy or relaxing. But don’t give up! Reading is important and can be fun for everyone involved.
Why Reading with Your Children is Important
Reading is a great bonding time. By setting aside time to read with your children, you are creating wonderful memories. Also, when you stop what you are doing to read with your children, you are showing them that reading is important.
Reading different books exposes your kids to new vocabulary words and concepts that they may not see or hear during everyday activities. You can read fairy tales or books about faraway places and different cultures. This is a great opportunity to discuss the difference between “real” and “pretend” and to point out that not all people live the same way we do.
Starting young is important. Ideally, kids grow up with books. They start out putting them in their mouths and then progress to turning pages and, eventually, they will listen to whole stories and recall details! While to us it seems second nature to pick up a book and flip through the pages from front to back, holding a book right-side up and reading sentences from left to right are all skills that we have learned and ones that our children must learn as well.
Now, How to Make Reading Fun!
A lot of enjoyment from reading depends on the age of the child.
Babies and young toddlers need books that they can put in their mouths. Board books, cloth books or plastic ones that are made for the bathtub are all good options. This age group also likes simple pictures and pictures of babies and people.
Around age two to three, children start understanding simple stories and enjoy rhyming. Books of nursery rhymes are perfect because you can read as many as they like. Books that are interactive are great, too. Look for books with different textures or hidden pictures beneath flaps. Many kids at this age will have a favorite book that you have to read again and again and again. That is actually good for them. Studies show that kids this age learn more new words from hearing the same story over and over than from reading lots of different books.
Older children enjoy actual stories with a plot. They may ask lots of questions about the stories, but if not, ask them questions! Asking about what the characters may be thinking or feeling gets them involved in the story and may provide some amusing answers.
Kids of all ages will appreciate it if you get into the story, too. Use different voices for different characters. Do your best to make sound effects. For younger children, see if you can make up actions to go with the words. The kids will love it and you may find yourself having a lot of fun, too!